At the conclusion of their commencement ceremonies June 21, Warrensburg High School graduates throw their ceremonial caps into the air and celebrate the beginning of a new phase in their lives.
At Warrensburg Central’s commencement ceremonies June 21, the school’s 51 graduating seniors exhibited enthusiasm about delving into a new phase in their lives — and their attitude was refected in the brevity of the speeches delivered by the Class of 2013’s top students.
In her one-minute speech, Valedictorian Shelby Burkhardt spoke of how she and her classmates appreciated support through the years from teachers, friends and family.
“Dream big, because you can — and well, why not,” she said. “It is time for us to venture out and push ourselves to our fullest potential.”
Salutatorian Justine Monthony spoke of how her eclectic class had lately pulled together as a community, under the mentorship of parents, step-parents, grandparents, guardians, adoptive parents, siblings and teachers.
“Everyone in this audience is responsible in some way for the achievement of this class,” she said.
Despite the brevity of the student’s speeches, however, the adults stepping up to the lectern offered plenty of advice.
Lawson: ‘Ditch those illusions’
School Superintendent Tim Lawson, delivering his last graduation speech at WCS before he retires in December, offered his light-hearted observations:
“Life is not fair, get used to it;”.....”The world won’t care about your self esteem” (but people will value your accomplishments); ...”You will not make $40,000 per year right out of high school” (the executive job must be earned); “... If you think your teachers were tough wait until you get a boss;” ... “Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity;” ...and: “If you mess up, it’s not you parents’ fault — so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.”
He also urged them to take responsibility, over their lifetimes, for their own continued intellectual, professional and civic growth.
“Think of a high school diploma as a “license for learning, to be renewed continuously,” he said.
D.A. Hogan offers her advice
Keynote speaker Kate Hogan, Warren County District Attorney, said that through the first 18 years or so of their lives, the soon-to-be graduates had parents, teachers and the state telling them what to do.
“Now, you’ll be making the choices,” she said, offered suggestions for how they could experience fulfilling lives:
• Keep an open mind about people, issues, ideas and interests;
• Work hard and follow your passion;
•Be kind and maintain a positive attitude — the way you treat people matters; and
•Never compromise your integrity.
“It’s your beginning, your choices, your direction, your effort — Make the most of it,” Hogan said.
High Honor student Beecher Baker also talked about the transition into adult life, with graduates becoming independent, self-sufficient and responsible.
“After tonight, the decisions in our lives are solely up to us,” he said. “This may seem daunting; but to me knowing that the direction of my life lies in my hands, is very liberating.”
The school chorus and Seniors involved in the school’s 2013 musical “Grease” sang “We Go Together” from the production.
The school’s choruses and Mastersingers, directed by James Corriveau, sang a medley as a prelude to the ceremony as well as a selection midway through the event.
Duell: unplug and embrace reality
Principal Doug Duell noted how technologically savvy the graduates were, with the many new ways to access and share information resulting from the “electronic tsunami” taking place in society.
However, Duell advised that in order to achieve true fulfilment, it was necessary to balance real life with the virtual world.
He urged the students to engage in face-to-face connections, rather than merely rely on Facebook updates, texting and tweeting.
“After all, you have been given a real life to live,” he said, noting how Warrensburg’s bicentennial in 2013 serves as a reminder that community life was vibrant for centuries before the technology age.
“Our community continues to enjoy the kind of civic motivation that is not found in a screen,” he said, calling for the seniors to contribute positively to their community.
“Be an innovator and a problem solver — think with other people instead of just ‘Googling’ it,” he added. ‘Be with real people to investigate ‘greener’ ways, more equitable ways — human ways.”
Duell also urged them to be selfless and caring, and attend to the needs of others.
“Strive to create stable and vibrant communities through volunteerism,” he said.
These real connections are what make life meaningful and fulfilling, Duell concluded.
“May we know when to pull out the ear buds or look up from our iPhones and hold on to what is real,” he said. “Be sure that you make it a great life — because the choice is always yours.”